If you have seasonal allergies, or suffer from them year-round, you probably take over-the-counter medicine like Benadryl or Claritin to relieve the multitude of symptoms that come with having allergies. Regardless of your allergy symptoms, including a runny nose or sneezing that goes on throughout the day, these medications, for many of us, work like magic to help us go about our days. It is amazing how miniature tablets of medicine are able to alleviate such harsh symptoms in so little time. How do they do it?
According to Immunobiology: The Immune System in Health and Disease, in order to be allergic to something, your body must recognize a normally harmless substance, such as pollen or dust, as harmful. Your body will begin a process called an immune reaction that aims to get rid of all the foreign matter you inhaled or ingested. In this process your body releases histamines, which are the chemicals responsible for your runny nose. Mucus is also made in excess by your body in hopes of removing the material lodged in your nose, throat, and lungs. Sneezing is a forceful attempt to get rid of bits and pieces of foreign matter; this reaction is also caused by histamine.
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An anti-histamine is a synthetic chemical that, according to The Journal of Organic Chemistry, is made to be similar in structure to the natural histamine chemicals that are released by your body in an allergic reaction. Anti-histamines bind to cells and block histamines from binding. This binding of the anti-histamines stops the secretion of mucus, and therefore sneezing and your runny nose.
Now that you know more about how allergies work to produce all those annoying side effects, next time you take allergy medication you can feel even more appreciative of how the medicine is working inside of your body to make you feel better.
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